Verily, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has warned his followers against Shirk and blocked all the means leading to it. It is known that Allah sent Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) to all people at a time when the state of the Arabs and the whole residents of the earth, except for some remnants of the People of the Scripture, was extremely bad. Depicting that, Allah, Exalted be he, says:
“Certainly did Allah confer (great) favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book [i.e. the Qur’an] and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error.” [Surah Ali Imran(3):164]
People who lived at the time preceding the mission of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) were divided into different sects.
FIRST, confused pagans who used to worship idols made of carved stones, which were erected in places where they would stick to them, circumambulate them and sacrifice animals and, sometimes, their children to them. Allah, Exalted be He, says about this:
“And likewise, to many of the polytheists their partners have made (to seem) pleasing the killing of their children in order to bring about their destruction and to cover them with confusion in their religion…”
The SECOND sect was the People of the Scripture who were divided into two sects. The first group was the confused Christians, who had deviated from the Straight Path, believing in the trinity (i.e., worshipping a God in three persons). Those Christians associated Jesus’ disciples and the monks with Allah in divinity. The second group was the Jews, who committed abuse in the land, spreading corruption and inflaming seditions among peoples. They also broke their covenant with Allah and distorted the texts of their book from their proper meaning.
The THIRD sect of people who existed at the time preceding the Prophet’s mission was the Magi who used to worship fire, believing in two deities, one being the creator of good and the other being the creator of evil, as they claimed.
The FOURTH sect was the Sabi’un, who used to worship the planets and stars, believing in their influence on whatever occurs on earth.
A FIFTH sect of people were the Dahriyyun (an atheistic sect that does not believe in the Hereafter and holds that time is eternal), who would not adopt any faith nor would they believe in Resurrection or Judgment.
This was the state of the people on earth at the time when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was commisioned with Prophethood; there prevailed overwhelming ignorance and dominant aberration. Therefore, Allah has rescued those who followed Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) from darkness to light, thus reestablishing the tolerant Hanifiyyah (the True Religion), which was the religion of Prophet Ibrahim (alaihis salaam). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has called for demolishing the idols and forbade shirk, blocking all the ways leading to it.
[Taken from the book, Guide to Sound Creed by the esteemed scholar Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan, Al-Maiman Publishing House]